As Barcelona burns to the ground while Club President Josep Maria Bartomeu fiddles and former Barca player and Everton manager Ronald Koeman sifts through the ashes to build a winner, a number of players have found themselves suddenly looking for new home addresses.
The most iconic of all those names is Lionel Messi, and while he remains that obscure object of desire for fanciful Everton meme-makers on Twitter, it’s the other players from the fallout that might have Marcel Brands and Carlo Ancelotti rethinking their summer transfer window plans.
As The Guardian reports here, a number of Barca veterans are going to find themselves lockerless a la Oumar Niasse when they report back to Ciutat Esportiva for preseason training.
Everton in recent transfer windows have done some decent business with the Catalan side, bringing in Gerard Deulofeu, Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes, and last summer Marco Silva was interested in midfielder Ivan Rakitic too.
Rakitic and Arturo Vidal might find themselves on the market again but Everton are already looking at two ageing midfielders in Allan and James Rodriguez. Luis Suarez has also been rumoured to be leaving, but we won’t be touching the former Liverpool striker. Which leaves central defender Samuel Umtiti.
A couple of years ago, I would have rated Umtiti as the single best CB in the world as he went on to win the World Cup with France. However, since then, his career has had a lot of bumps in the road and he finds himself not even in the French squad as even another Everton target Kurt Zouma has surpassed him.
Most of his issues have been injury related. In 2018-19, he missed 28 matches due to injury. In 2019-20, he missed seventeen more, and also had a calf injury during the COVID-19 pandemic break from play, during which the poor guy even caught the coronavirus.
These disruptions are bad, and they have correlated with a fall in performance on the pitch. As a ball playing defender, Umtiti is still absolutely excellent, but the actual defending side of being a defender is something he really can’t do at the same level anymore. Where this mostly expresses itself is in his fouling.
To put in perspective how dramatic a 0th percentile score is in any metric, Cristiano Ronaldo is in the 0th percentile in ‘successful pressures’ among forwards. So basically, relative to the rest of the defenders in the top five leagues over the last two seasons, Umtiti is as bad about committing fouls as Ronaldo is at slacking off and not pressing the ball. If we knew we were going to have 60% of the ball every game, then maybe Umtiti is a good enough tactical fit that his faults are worth overlooking. We uh, are not going to have 60% of the ball every time we take the pitch.
I like our centrehalves, in fact, I consider them one of the strengths of the squad as you can read here. Barcelona might be willing to let him go at a cut rate, but I don’t see why we should - given the defenders we have - spend huge wages on a player in a position where we don’t have a major need. Even if you don’t rate our backline as a particular strength, Umtiti currently makes just over £200,000 per week at Barcelona. Even if we were to bring him in at half that, we already have Yerry Mina and his injury issues at £120k a week, why deal with another injury prone player that will not only struggle to play on a team that has to defend as much as the Blues do, but then will miss as many matches to injury as he has in the last two seasons?
Arsenal can have him if they like, count me out.